Role:

Concept lead, Product Manager, UX lead

PRODUCT MANAGEMENT:

Feature validation, lean UX testing, feature prioritisation, feature value proposition, impact mapping and product-market fit, backlog grooming 

UX RESEARCH:

Discovery UX research, user interviews, user testing, surveys, immersion, empathy mapping, personas, customer journey maps, A/B testing

UX Design:

Wireframing, Wireflows, prototype design

Platforms:

iPhone, iPad, Android, Web

Tools:

Google analytics, Firebase, Hot jar

Initial concept and vision

I conceptualised a ‘Drag and drop a feature’ app and website creation solution for hospitality and small to medium businesses.

BACKGROUND

The costs for developing bespoke native apps for smaller businesses remained prohibitively expensive. There was an increasing demand for apps from businesses who understood the power of using mobile apps to engage with their customers.

DISCOVERY USER RESEARCH

After initial market analysis of business segments, I decided to focus on the hospitality segment as the market opportunity in terms of size and revenue was significant and there was a lower barrier for entry for a hypothesis that I could easily test. I began discovery research to identify user personas within the food and beverage sector and synthesised these findings into multiple persona archetypes. I focussed on the personas that I hypothesised offered the biggest market opportunity.

To evaluate product-market fit I combined an early version of the value proposition canvas as well as lean UX as a methodology. I initially began designing sketches on paper that aimed at a target persona and progressively increased the fidelity of the  prototypes with more feedback and user tested these early prototypes with more users that represented this target persona. This process of iteration continued till we saw a strong product-market fit for the proposed feature set among the personas that we were looking to target. This feature set was the basis for the MVP that was built and launched for a few early customers. The MVP offered a basic feature set that was useful for most hospitality establishments including a list view to add menus, map screen, contact and a basic customer loyalty feature.

Post launch a more robust user testing process allowed us to make quick iterations and improvements before the product was launched for the mass market by setting up and testing a sweet spot for pricing in a tiered subscription system.  

Feature refinement

As the number of customers began to grow we began to receive a significant rise in support and feature requests. In the beginning it was tempting to try and fulfil all these requests in an attempt to please our customers. Gradually I developed a more scientific and studied approach. In addition to qualitative methods like reading support tickets and interviewing customers I also began to use quantitative analysis to validate all feature requests. From there I began a process of gathering raw customer feedback and grouped these into themes including using the volume of requests to assess priority. I used a value/complexity framework to validate the feature requests into quadrants to determine which features were easy wins, which features were of most strategic importance, the features that were worth revisiting at later time and which features could be deprioritised. Value for each feature was weighed through a number of metrics including size of the market, strategic impact to the business, revenue size, customer usability and the size of the persona base impacted. 

I continued the discovery research to look and learn for opportunities in other verticals that the platform could expand to without any significant development. This gave me some profound insights of how some of the features that we developed could be applied to some other verticals. I discovered significant pain points and customer jobs to be done patterns in other verticals. This inspired me to add expand the product offering to other more specialised business verticals including retail as well as events while retaining most of the existing feature set.  

Gradually the feature set was expanded for verticals that began to show a bigger opportunity size with the addition of more specialised features for that particular vertical. Each feature was tested throughly using lean UX methodologies with personas within that vertical to determine market fit before it was added into the product. This was followed by user testing of the product to ensure it was for customers through making iterative enhancements.

Feature successes was validated through measuring its usage through quantitative analytics as well as feedback through support channels.

overview

The solution was designed so commonly used features could be dynamically added from a CMS and an app and website built in real time including the ability to skin and customise it to brand standards. The challenge was to make the solution easy enough for anyone to build an app with drag and drop ease yet be powerful enough to use as a business solution. At the heart of the solution was an online Content management system (CMS) that controlled everything across all platforms. Features could be added to the app and website, content updated and branding updated all through a single CMS in the cloud.

Product design methodOLOGY and approaches

I used different approaches and tools with our design team including the use of Design sprints, Value proposition canvas and a greater degree of exploration of different UX methodologies. We extensively user tested the platform and made reports of the result of the usability tests to compile as reports that were pitched in design meetings.  Soon with addition of more powerful design thinking methodologies the speed to which ideas were tested dropped from a few weeks to less than one week before any development effort was put in. We went from problem definition to fully testable prototypes at the end of a week. We stretched the limits of the ideas to see where we could discover some interesting new opportunities that could subsequently make it through to a lean UX process. 

 The outcome

The solution grew to be adopted by nearly 200 paying customers around the world including acquiring large customers like Wendys’. The solution also expanded to even more verticals while finding strong product market fit within each vertical. 

The solution hit a roadblock as Apple decided to clamp down on DIY apps as competitors in the US began to flood the app store with low quality web shell apps using pyramid selling models to try to expand their customer base. This made it harder to onboard customers as the Apple review process slowed down to a crawl and each approval took much longer. 

A much bigger problem began to surface with the lack of deeper level of integrations into other systems this reduced the value of the product as more businesses needed an even deeper level of integration into their core processes to use this as a business solution. The integration made it harder to focus on a single opportunity and it was deemed strategically hard to focus on a single vertical without having a proven market size to validate the level of integration as demanded by customers within the vertical.

With time the larger feature set was a double edged sword and made onboarding and acquisition harder with significant friction points along the customer journey. The solution finally pivoted to a dedicated industry with a deeper level of integration.